Police Monday were looking for a suspect who used a leaf blower to terrorize a weekend audience of theatergoers watching the movie “The Gift” in Newport Beach, along with as many as two of his accomplices.
The suspect got into the Edwards Big Newport 6 theater through an emergency exit on Saturday night and held the leaf blower aloft while revving its motor, according to Jennifer Manzella of the Newport Beach Police Department.
Some patrons scrambled for the doors, causing three people to sustain minor injuries, Manzella said. One of the injured went to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian to be checked out.
Police say that whether or not it was meant as a prank, it was no joking matter given a recent series of violent episodes in movie theaters nationally.
“The fear that was incited in moviegoers was very much influenced by what’s going on in the rest of the country,” Manzella said.
Investigators, who do not believe it was any sort of publicity stunt, believe at least one suspect paid to get into the theater at 300 Newport Center Drive and opened the emergency door for the leaf-blower-wielding suspect, Manzella said.
Some witnesses suggested there were two men involved, and others said three, she noted.
Descriptions of the suspects varied, Manzella said. Some witnesses said they appeared to be in their late teens, while others said they looked like they were in their early 30s, Manzella said.
—City News Service